There were an estimated 5 million more malaria cases in 2016 than 2015 — and a significant reason for this increase is a lack of funding, according to a new World Health Organization report.

There were an estimated 216 million cases in 91 countries in 2016, up from 211 million in 2015, according to the World Malaria Report 2017.

Stalls in funds have limited resources like insecticide-treated nets, medicines, and other life-saving tools, the report said.

“We are at a crossroads in the response to malaria,” said Dr. Pedro Alonso, director of the Global Malaria Programme. “We hope this report serves as a wake-up call for the global health community.

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Sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet (ITN) and spraying homes with insecticides are effective ways to prevent malaria in most countries affected by malaria.

While 54% of people at risk in sub-Saharan Africa slept with an ITN compared to 30% in 2010, the increase in coverage has slackened since 2014, according to the report.

The report also noted a decline in the number of people protected by insecticides, from an estimated 180 million in 2010 to 100 million in 2016. The largest decreases were noted in the African Region.

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In 2016, there was an estimated US$ 2.7 billion invested in malaria efforts worldwide, but the annual amount needed by 2020 to successfully reach the 2030 targets of WHO’s malaria strategy is US $6.5 billion.

The WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria outlines a 40% decrease in malaria cases and mortality rates by the year 2020.

“Meeting the global malaria targets will only be possible through greater investment and expanded coverage of core tools that prevent, diagnose and treat malaria,” Alsonso said in a statement. “Robust financing for the research and development of new tools is equally critical.”

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Last year, governments of endemic countries delivered 31% of the overall funding which accounted for US$ 800 million. Providing US$1 billion, the US was the largest international funder of malaria control programs in 2016. The UK, Northern Ireland, France, Germany, and Japan were also major funders.

The estimated number of malaria deaths was 445 000 in 2016, which is down from 446 000 deaths in 2015.

But the report suggests that while the cases of malaria have decreased overall since 2014, that pattern has come to a halt and has even been reversed in some areas — malaria mortality rates are seeing a similar trend.

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“In recent years, we have made major gains in the fight against malaria,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO. “We are now at a turning point. Without urgent action, we risk going backwards, and missing the global malaria targets for 2020 and beyond.”

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Malaria Is on the Rise Due to Lack of Funding, WHO Report Says

By Jackie Marchildon